If you’ve forgotten your wallet or it’s simply feeling a little light, don’t panic as you don’t need to be a big spender in order to see all that Melbourne has to offer. And while you will be charged for the city’s world-class coffee, the following 21 activities and attractions are free for you to enjoy.
Melbourne locals love listening to live music. Fortunately, this is one activity you don’t have to miss if you’re strapped for cash. Cherry Bar, in the city’s ACDC Lane, calls itself ‘pretty much the best rock ‘n’ roll bar in the world’. It offers free admission throughout the week (on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Sundays), and often hosts big-name after-parties and rock stars. Another option is The Esplanade in St Kilda, which has free entry most nights and is the place to catch emerging rock acts.
Deborah Halpern is one of Australia’s most celebrated sculptors. She’s know for her colourful mosaic sculptures; three of which are on display in Melbourne. There’s Angel (1987)at Birrarung Marr, Ophelia (1992)at Southgate, and Portal to Another Time and Place (2005)at Werribee Mansion. Other public sculptures to seek out in Melbourne include Bruce Armstrong’s Eagle (2002)and John Kelly’s Cow up a Tree (1999)in Docklands, Simon Perry’s The Public Purse (1994) outside the GPO building, and Petrus Spronk’s sinking building known as Architectural Fragment (1992) outside the State Library of Victoria.
Stretching alongside the Yarra River from Princes Bridge to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the Southbank entertainment precinct includes some of Melbourne’s top restaurants, high-end retailers and Crown Casino. Stroll down the promenade where you’ll find buskers and gaze up at Melbourne’s skyline. At night, marvel at Crown Casino’s Gas Brigades, which send fireballs high into the sky every hour.
Trams are an integral part of Melbourne’s cityscape. The free City Circle Tram allows tourists and Melburnians alike to travel throughout the city, hopping on and off as they wish. The fleet of historical W-class trams travels through La Trobe, Flinders, Spring, Nicholson and Victoria Streets, covering Melbourne’s central business district. There’s audio commentary on board as well; revealing the attractions at each stop, and interesting facts along the way.
Whether you’re searching for a peaceful refuge or seeking to admire architectural feats, Melbourne’s places of worship are worth a look. St Paul’s Cathedral is located in the heart of Melbourne’s central business district. Designed by English architect William Butterfield, the cathedral is built in the neo-Gothic transitional style. Nearby is the medieval-looking St Patrick’s Cathedral. You’ll also find St Mary Star of the Sea Church and St Michael’s Uniting Church. These holy houses are impressive to look at and spiritual to visit.
Located six kilometres (3.7 miles) southeast of Melbourne, St Kilda is an idyllic seaside escape only minutes from the city. Stroll down the shoreline to St Kilda Pier for some penguin spotting and breathtaking skyline views. The bustling nearby Acland Street is a great place to grab a bite, and on Sundays there’s a beachfront market too. You can also walk around Luna Park for free but, of course, the activities cost extra.
The best views of the city are found at a height, making rooftop bars the best spots to soak in a sunset and watch as the lights switch on across Melbourne’s cityscape. Siglo offers views of St Patrick’s Cathedral and Parliament House, as well as a range of sophisticated drinks. With other options like Madame Brussels and Naked in the Sky, you’ll be more than happy to treat yourself to a drink or two when the bar comes with a view.
The labyrinth of laneways that snake themselves around Melbourne have become some of the most sought-after real estate for artists looking for urban canvases. Splashed in bright colours, the magnificent murals of Duckboard Place, as well as Hosier, Union and ACDC Lanes are open to artistic expression and make for Instagram-worthy backdrops.
Throughout Melbourne, you’ll find a juxtaposition of modern, Victorian and art deco architecture, with daring designers constantly pushing boundaries and expanding the cityscape. Walking around Melbourne, you need only to look up and gaze at buildings and structures, including Eureka Tower, Federation Square, the Manchester Unity Building and the Melbourne Theatre Company. Fed Square was completed in 2002 and incorporates both a deconstructive design and a modern minimalist style.
Many of Australia’s most iconic television shows have been filmed in Melbourne, including Neighbours (1985–present), Offspring (2010–present),and Kath & Kim (2002–2007). For Neighbours fans, all outside shots of Ramsay Street are filmed in Pin Oak Court, Vermont South. The non-free option is to do the Official Neighbours Tour, where you get to meet a Neighbours star (past or present). Filming for Kath & Kim took place at 4 Lagoon Place, Patterson Lakes. Offspring fans should visit Brunswick Street to see Dr Noonan’s surgery exterior and Emma Street in Collingwood to see the Proudman home.
Melbourne’s events calendar is teeming with festivals throughout the year, all of which offer free entertainment in addition to ticketed events. In March, there’s Moomba, which is Australia’s largest free community festival. There’s nightly fireworks, celebrity monarchs, a parade, and carnival rides and games galore. Other popular festivals in the city include the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne Festival.